Today’s Newspoll result shows the Labor Party with an election winning lead of 52% to 48% on the two party preferred, with a margin of error of +/- 3%. This is a one point gain to Labor from the previous Newspoll and the third consecutive Newspoll where Labor has gained a point on the two party measure. This suggests a turnaround in Labor’s recent polling fortunes according to the poll that is often described as “the most influential in Australia” – although Newspoll is just a poll and is no more or less accurate than any other pollster with an accurate sampling frame run by professional people knowledgeable about statistics.
Despite many news outlets giving prominence to the Coalition having a higher primary vote than Labor at the national level, our electoral system of compulsory preferential voting means that the two party preferred is what actually decides government. Other results of the Newspoll – produced exclusively for The Australian – show that more people are dissatisfied with the performance of both Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott than are respectively satisfied with their performance. Tony Abbott also made ground over the last fortnight on the measure of Better PM, although this particular polling metric has shown no meaningful statistical relationship to changes of Federal government and is mostly just a political curiosity.
Pundits today also suggested that the Penrith by-election result for the state of NSW – where an unpopular, scandal ridden Labor government suffered the type of heavy defeat that we regularly see and generally expect with such by-elections – has serious ramifications for the first term incumbent Federal Labor administration. However, any relationship between state by-election results and the way people vote in those areas at the subsequent Federal election, is literally non-existent throughout Australian political history.
On the policy front, commentators continue to argue that the current polling results federal Labor is experiencing – polling almost identical at this point in the political cycle to that which every first term government has faced in the postwar period – has come about as a result of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd refusing to use his “political capital” to pass an Emissions Trading Scheme. Despite “political capital” being a completely meaningless cliché without any actual substance, such analysis also fails to recognise that the votes of opposition Senators on the floor of the upper house are determined by their own party strategy and not by the views of 2000 odd people that tell pollsters their satisfaction or otherwise of the PM every week in polls. To pass any legislation, the government needs to get a majority in the Senate – without which, legislation will simply not pass regardless of Prime Ministerial approval, current voting intentions or the price of a bag of carrots.
This week Kevin Rudd faces Question Time in what might be the last sitting of parliament before the next election, where he will inevitably face further questions on his popularity, boat people, the BER, mental health and the proposed Resource Super Profits Tax. How Rudd reacts to these questions however is neither here nor there, as Question Time is seen by only a handful of people mostly consisting of gallery journalists, political tragics and those otherwise paid to watch it. A very large majority of the population would rather stab themselves in the face with a broken broom handle than inflict upon their senses a bunch of politicians shouting at each other like school children over issues that they mostly care little about, nor particularly understand. This is reflected in TV ratings where various versions of “Question Time” usually receive the equivalent of N/A – where the audience wasn’t large enough to statistically differentiate from background noise.
Speculation has been rampant of late that the momentum has all been with Tony Abbott and the Coalition – assisting them in their final drive home to the 2010 election. Although just what such a thing actually means in terms of anything *but* gallery journalists filling what would otherwise be dead air with noise, is a little bit of a mystery. Big tests for Rudd before the election are said to include the RSPT, mental health and BER value for money – although not in the history of Australia has a Federal government ever been kicked out over a set of policies so far removed from the actual and perceived living standards in the real economy of the general population.
So as we head into the 2010 election, beware the stories you read and hear, because most of them will surely be a whole lot of something about absolutely nothing.